With an estimated 1 billion monthly users and a potential advertising reach of 849.3 million users, Instagram remains one of the most important social media networks for businesses. Since its creation in 2010, Instagram’s uniquely visual nature makes it an ideal place for businesses to showcase their products and engage with their audiences.
But the competition for consumer attention is fierce. According to Hootsuite, there were an estimated 25 million businesses on Instagram as of 2019.
In order to maintain an Instagram presence that truly markets your business to your audience, you have to meet users where they are. Content that reads as traditional advertisement will fail quicker than you can imagine. Successful businesses on Instagram understand how users interact with the platform, and reach their audience by fulfilling meeting their needs.
If you’re ready to transform your Instagram page into a real marketing asset, read our five tips below on how to improve your Instagram presence to better market your business.
Number 1: Create a Consistent Aesthetic
You’ve probably been told hundreds of times to "use great photos" in your Instagram posts, and it’s an important point to remember. But on such a visual platform, you need to think beyond the individual images.
On Instagram, it’s important to consider your visuals on the larger scale. Imagine your whole Instagram profile as a digital magazine. Curate individual posts around a centralizing aesthetic, theme, or “vibe.”
The benefits of this are twofold.
First, a consistent look helps to build brand recognition, especially among your followers. A cohesive look will help communicate your business’s point of view and personality. Ideally, your followers will be able to instantly recognize your content in their feed.
Secondly, it helps to create a good first impression when new users first see your account. Research shows that Instagram users typically look at an account’s last 6-9 feed posts before deciding whether or not to hit the follow button. Impress potential followers by building a consistent overall look with each post.
A curated feed shouldn’t feel boring, though. There are many different ways to create a consistent aesthetic in your posts while offering an interesting mix of content. Read below for just a few ideas to unify your Instagram feed.
Privacy Pls is a US-based women’s clothing brand that has successfully created a large following and sold products without their own website.
Their images are varied, but they’ve created a cohesive feeling through their clever use of filters.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that all of the pictures feel very warm. Even the blue skies don’t feel so blue. Privacy Pls has made the same, simple temperature adjustment to all of their images to create a cohesive feeling.
You can easily create your own custom filter preset in almost any photo editing website or software.
The Financial Diet
The Financial Diet (TFD) is a personal finance brand that has a highly active web, YouTube, and Instagram presence. Although they post a mix of content and colors, the brand uses the same template for content in each category.
For example, their Twitter features are always in the same format. They use another format in all of their podcast promotions. So do their quotes, podcast promo posts, lists…you get the idea.
This method gives TFD’s social media team the freedom to use a wide range colors and patterns in their content, without losing their brand recognition.
You can follow this strategy yourself by dividing your content into a few categories and creating a template for each.
Udemy is a widely popular platform for online courses. They’ve unified their Instagram by branding all of their content.
Their color scheme centers on brand colors, and each post features their logo. This lets them use a wide variety of formats while still maintaining a cohesive look.
As an added bonus, branding your images helps your followers recognize your posts instantly.
Kelsey Simone is a New York based influencer and vlogger whose Instagram is all about her neutral palette.
Colors schemes are perhaps the most popular way to create consistency in an Instagram feed. Other common examples are black & white themes, neon themes, and pastels.
Anyone can implement this strategy. Just think carefully about what different color schemes can communicate about your business, and choose appropriately.
Hostelworld is a hostel and travel company that faced a unique challenge when creating their Instagram look.
In order to unify their images from locations all over the world, they created an image border.
A border quickly creates cohesion, regardless of differences in image composition, subject matter, color palette, and so on.
If you’d like to try this yourself, you can create your own border in most photo editing websites or programs.
Users are more likely to follow businesses with a cohesive aesthetic because it communicates that the business has a clear vision and is committed to creating valuable content. Think about how you can incorporate your mission, values, and brand into your Instagram posts and start creating content around that theme.
Number 2: Engage (Back) With Your Followers & Audience
It’s easy to be so focused on why you’re on Instagram (to market your business), that you forget why your audience is on Instagram (to be inspired, find valuable content, and to interact with friends, family, and brands).
The most successful businesses on Instagram understand the importance of establishing a two-way relationship with users.
Engaging With Your Followers:
A lack of mutual engagement on a business profile gives the impression that you’re only interested in what you can get from your followers. That can make them feel there’s no point in engaging with your content. Beyond that, it can leave followers feeling unappreciated.
So don’t forget to return the engagement to your followers. Invest time to create a real relationship with your them. Not only does this make your followers happy, but it also communicates your value to other users.
This doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time. A few minutes a day or week spent responding to comments and engaging with posts you’ve been tagged in will go a long way towards establishing a two-sided relationship.
If you already know who your biggest fans are, consider following them back and engaging with their posts, especially if they’re relevant to your business in any way. Every time they get a notification from you, they’re reminded of your business. Maybe they’ll even be inspired to check out your latest content.
Engaging With Potential Followers:
If you have the time, you can also interact with accounts that aren’t following you.
Searching hashtags you use often is a great starting point. Whenever there’s an opportunity to do it naturally, like or comment on relevant posts. Remember, comments should be meaningful, so dropping a “great pic” or “great post” in the comments section won't get you that far.
Those users will hopefully see the notification from you, and be curious enough to check out your profile. If they find your content valuable and relevant, they might just hit the follow button. This strategy can help you find high-quality followers who are likely to engage with your content and take actions on your account.
In order to succeed on Instagram, you should be constantly developing relationships with your followers and other users interested in your industry. Participating in conversations inspires people to engage with your content and continue following you. If you find ways to engage genuinely, you might even be able to convert your audience members into new followers.
Number 3: Encourage Your Followers to Tag You
The power of word-of-mouth marketing hasn’t decreased in the digital age. If anything, social media has amplified the customer voice.
Hopefully, you’ve made your customers happy. The tagging feature on Instagram is a great opportunity for those happy customers to share their experiences with your business. Don’t miss it! Whenever possible, encourage customers to tag you in their posts to produce user generated content (UGC).
The easiest and most common way user generated content is made is by posting pictures of a physical product and tagging the business. This can take the form of unboxing videos, product reviews, a mention in an “outfit of the day” picture, and so much more.
For services, users typically tag businesses when they’re sharing how those businesses have helped them achieve a goal. Courses and coaches typically get a lot of mentions when their product has helped someone reach a milestone.
Dave Ramsey, personal finance guru that offers resources to help people get out of debt, has mastered this technique. His followers are constantly tagging him in posts celebrating their debt-free milestones.
Ramsey brilliantly takes full advantage of this user-generated content by re-posting it to his own account. This keeps his content fresh and builds his credibility.
Regardless of what you offer customers, reviews from satisfied customers are always an asset to your Instagram presence. You can increase your Instagram’s marketing abilities by using it to collect testimonials and build a positive reputation for your business.
Number 4: Tell Stories
Users want to see interesting, visually appealing, and inspiring content in their Instagram feeds. So, where does that leave businesses room to tell a brand story, promote products, or otherwise conduct more traditional marketing? Enter: Instagram Stories.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Instagram Stories are images or video content in a slideshow format. Unlike feed posts that are always visible on your profile, Stories disappear after 24 hours. Built-in features like polls, stickers, filters, pens, and more provide plenty of room for creativity.
For example, the popular cosmetics brand Glossier created holiday-themed Stories encouraging followers to send in requests for gift suggestions.
The business then re-posted a handful of user-generated responses, followed by personal recommendations from their editors.
The high level of interactivity and Glossier’s personal touch made for a very successful and creative use of stories.
Hootsuite estimates that 500 million users now use stories, and one-third of the most viewed stories are from businesses. Instagram Stories are a place to be inventive, take risks, and educate your followers about your business. They allow you to communicate with your customers in more direct and informal ways.
As an added bonus, frequent Stories typically won’t cause you to lose followers like too many feed posts often do. Take advantage of this by adding content that supports your profile and perhaps lives outside of your carefully curated aesthetic.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to Instagram stories. Below are just a few ideas on how to grow your Instagram presence with stories:
- Ask and/or answer questions
- Host contests
- Behind-the-scenes features
- Feature other accounts
- Ask for suggestions
- Offer discounts
- Promote feed posts
- Go live
- Product testing/demonstration
- Promote your other channels
- Link to website pages (only for verified accounts)
Think about what kinds of stories your followers might find interesting. Unlike your feed posts, stories don’t always have to be expertly designed (although that doesn’t hurt). As long as your stories look clean and offer something of value, they’re sure to enrich your Instagram presence and provide more marketing opportunities.
Number 5: Highlights
Sometimes a story is so good, you hate to see it disappear after just 24 hours. Thanks to the Stories Highlights feature, you can save your favorite Stories at the top of your Instagram profile.
If you’re not taking advantage of the highlights feature, you’re losing valuable space on your Instagram profile.
Broadly, Stories Highlights allow you to create content categories and save past story content. They can be valuable resources, like tutorials, coupon codes, or event schedules that give users reasons to revisit your profile.
Stories Highlights also allow potential followers to see the full scope of your content. Simply put, the more amazing content users see at the top of your profile, the more likely they are to follow you.
How to best use Stories Highlights depends on your business and goals. Some examples of potential categories are:
- product categories/features
- links to blog posts
- class schedules
- links to purchase pages
In short, your story highlights should feature your most interesting and interactive content. No matter how you utilize the feature, take full advantage of Stories Highlights to promote your business and drive marketing goals.
In summary, an effective Instagram presence for businesses requires much, much more than just compelling visuals. Thanks to the popularity of the platform, the competition for consumer attention is intense.
To succeed in Instagram in 2020, it’s important to understand and fulfill your audience’s needs. Remember, overtly promotional content won’t work. Once you’ve created a strong aesthetic, focus on creating a two-way relationship with your followers with engagement and tagging. Finally, get creative (and promotional) in your Stories and Stories Highlights, and you’re on your way.
Follow these five tips, and you’ll transform your Instagram presence from a social media tool into a social marketing asset.
Once you've mastered Instagram marketing, think about amplifying your content with Instagram Ads.